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Topics In the News
 
Australia's High Court Invalidates ACT's Same-Sex Marriage Law
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 12/12/13
Last updated on: 12/12/13
 
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Still from a video by GetupAustralia.

In a unanimous ruling released on December 12, 2013, Australia's High Court has invalidated the Australian Capital Territory's same-sex marriage law. In the process, it nullified the 27 same-sex marriages that took place in the interim between the effective date of the law (December 7) and the release of the ruling.

The decision of the ACT government to sponsor a bill legalizing same-sex marriage came after several unsuccessful attempts to pass a federal marriage equality bill. At the time Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said that there was overwhelming community support in the ACT for the measure. "We would prefer to see the federal parliament legislate for a nationally consistent scheme, but in the absence of this we will act for the people of the ACT."

ACT's Legislative Assembly debated the Marriage Equality Bill 2013 on October 22, when it was passed by a vote of 9 to 8.

However, following its passage, federal Attorney General George Brandis filed an emergency challenge to the bill before the High Court of Australia.

On December 3 and 4, the full bench of the High Court heard arguments as to the constitutionality of the bill. The principal question before the Court was whether the ACT legislation is consistent with the federal Marriage Act, which provides only for marriage between a man and a woman.

Justin Gleeson, the Commonwealth Solicitor-General, told the High Court that marriage is the union between a man and a woman and that the Federal Parliament has the right to define marriage in Australia.

Attorneys for the ACT argued that same-sex marriages can coexist with opposite-sex marriages and that the ACT has the right to legislate same-sex marriages. They pointed out that the federal marriage law does not ban same-sex marriages.

In the decision issued on December 12, the High Court determined that only the federal parliament has the power under the Australian constitution to legislate on same-sex marriage.

The Court concluded that ACT's same-sex marriage bill "cannot operate concurrently with the federal Act."

It invalidated the entirety of ACT's Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013 and nullified the marriages that were performed under it.

As Lauren Wilson reported in The Australian, supporters of marriage equality were dismayed by the ruling.

"This is devastating for those couples who married this week and for their families," Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said shortly after the decision was handed down in Canberra.

However, he said the ruling was just "a temporary defeat."

Australian Marriage Equality spokesman Ivan Hinton who married his partner Chris Teoh in Canberra last weekend, told reporters, "I don't want to be unmarried this afternoon."

Human Rights Law Centre spokeswoman Anna Brown said the ruling was a blow to the same-sex couples who had tied the knot in the ACT.

"The outcome has laid responsibility for advancing marriage equality squarely at the feet of the federal parliament," she said.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said her government had no regrets about pursuing marriage equality.

The clip below from SkyNews reports on the High Court ruling.

Within hours of the announcement of the High Court's ruling, the Australian progressive lobby GetupAustralia released a video featuring some of the marriages that took please in the ACT and announced that "Love Will Win In the End."

 
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